By Iran Review
By Iranian Diplomacy (IRD)
Interview with Mohammad Farhad Koleini, Former Iranian Ambassador to Armenia & Expert on Strategic Issues
Iranian Diplomacy: The former secretary-general of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, and the present special envoy of the UN and Arab League on Syria, is mired in the deadlock of Syria’s political crisis. The situation has been further exacerbated due to obstinacy of the West topped by the United States whose intervention has made finding a peaceful and low-cost solution to the Syrian crisis less possible. The former secretary-general of the United Nations who has already traveled to Iran and Iraq in continuation of his efforts to solve the Syrian crisis through peaceful means still insists that Iran should play a crucial role in Syria due to the high trust that the incumbent Syrian President Bashar Assad puts in Tehran. However, just as much as Annan insists on presence of Tehran in Syria, the Americans reject the idea noting that Iran’s role cannot be constructive in the crisis-hit country. Mohammad Farhad Koleini, an analyst of strategic issues has taken part in the following interview with the Iranian Diplomacy. He firmly believes that the West is not trying to find a way out of the Syrian crisis, but has turned that country into a security zone where every player is asking for their share.
Q: Do you think that the recent visit to Tehran by the UN-Arab League special envoy on Syria, Kofi Annan, shows his new attitude toward Iran’s role in solving the Syrian crisis?
A: It seems that the principle of realism in political issues, especially within international organizations, which is now manifested in the roles that Kofi Annan or the [UN secretary-general] Ban Ki-moon are playing, is totally at odds with positions which were previously taken by France, the UK, and the US about Iran’s role and position in solving the ongoing crisis in Syria. What we see today is that the United States is trying to ignore Iran’s role in these developments and move ahead while rejecting Iran’s part. It proves that from the viewpoint of the United States, Iran can only play a negative role in a constructive and sustainable interaction. This is also evident with regard to the nuclear issue. The United States has no intention to recognize Iran’s inalienable right to possess the nuclear energy and pursues that goal within framework of regional equations as well. Of course, this mentality is special to Americans, but in fact, the reality is different. It seems that Annan’s Tehran visit proves that the West believes the situation in Syria has hit a deadlock and is trying to reassess conditions in that country and, this time, with Iran in the forefront.
Q: Given Iran’s real role and position in the region, will the Americans be actually able to promote their viewpoint for solving the Syrian crisis in the absence of Iran’s participation?
A: First we must make it clear that whether the West, especially the United States, actually want to see a solution to the crisis or not? The US behavior in the past years has nourished viewpoints which believe that the West and Americans are actually bent on creating chaos in the region. That is, they mean to continue that behavior on the basis of a chaos-oriented democracy. The US President Barack Obama used to criticize this kind of democracy in the past and even lashed out at the behavior of the US Republican politicians, especially neoconservatives, for forcefully exporting democracy. Obama argued that their approach in fact amounted to imposing democracy on other countries. However, what we currently see in practice today is that the professional politicians are still working on the basis of their past views and are trying to move along the lines of power equations by building capacity in the Syria’s political situation. This has nothing to do with other equations which are based on general diplomacy or the democratization trend in the Middle East. The US behavior is, in fact, pursuit of realpolitik.
The main point which should be emphasized here is that throughout the ongoing developments in the region, some Arab countries, which have very bleak records in the field of human rights, have joined hands with the United States in the current equations in Syria in order to define a new security game. This security game, however, has been so mismanaged that it will certainly taint the international image of the United States.
Q: Russia and China seem to share Iran’s position on the Syrian crisis. How long they can continue on the same path and is it possible for China and Russia to take a position different from Iran somewhere along the way?
A: The experiences that China and Russia have gained in power equations of the Middle East, especially following developments in Syria has made them feel that the West is trying to set a model for international intervention and influence. For this reason, they are still bound within framework of a Westphalian viewpoint. This means that they generalize their judgments and firmly believe that the right to sovereignty should be enshrined within internal power equations of any given country. Therefore, when faced with a case of foreign intervention in a country they show serious diplomatic reaction.
As for the developments in Syria and general direction in which those developments move, it seems that even Kofi Annan’s recent visit to Tehran was the result of a new understanding of domestic developments in Syria. His trip proves that he is taking a new approach to the issue of Syria. It should be noted that the Syrian opposition constitutes a wide spectrum whose constituent groups suffer from their own internal conflicts. It seems that the West has reached some sort of political disappointment in Syria because the alternative it has considered for the Syrian government is evidently unable to meet its goals. From this viewpoint, it seems that Western politicians feel trapped in a deadlock over security issues and are trying to focus on political matters. The West aims to combine pursuit of a political solution with a politico-diplomatic approach in order to cover up its weakness in the ongoing security game and make it possible to claim a share in future Syria.
Q: Concurrent with the Security Council meeting, a Russian military fleet has been sent to Syria’s port city of Tartus. Strategic analysts believe that this will finally lead to some sort of deployment of military forces by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Russia in this region. Given the existing military equations in the region, what are chances for outright military confrontation or balance in the region?
A: Looking back to the period before political upheavals in Libya and Syria we will see that the then French government defined its main priorities on the basis of the situation in the Mediterranean. Today, we see that developments in the Mediterranean enjoy a new quality and the West is trying to increase its military and security control over the Mediterranean. It seems that even part of developments which we currently see in Syria result from the West’s notion of a new security arrangement in the Mediterranean. From this viewpoint, it seems that Russia is trying to flaunt its power at rivals by beefing up its military presence in Syria. By doing this, Moscow is trying to get more active in the existing equations by not allowing the West to impose its geopolitical monopoly over the Mediterranean. Today, Russia is not just a player in Syria, but is trying to appear as a powerful supporter. This issue was quite evident in the latest visit by the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to Syria and the reaction shown to that visit by the Syrian government and the public opinion.
For this reason, it seems that Russia’s approach to Syria’s developments is not necessarily focused on what is actually going on inside the country, but it stems from a regional package and how Moscow aims to regulate that package in relation to its interactions with the West. Of course, the Russian President Vladimir Putin recently noted that his country will continue with its policy to develop military presence in the region, but this does not mean that Russia seeks confrontation. Russia is, in fact, doing its best to avoid outright confrontation by any means. China has also shown all along the way that it is following the same policy. Given China’s economic power and its influence in international system, Beijing has always avoided direct confrontation with the West, especially the United States and its politicians do not believe that the country should enter any major challenge in the short run and waste its energy in areas related to military security. They maintain that in view of the ongoing economic crisis in the West, China must still focus on its economic development.
As for developments in the Mediterranean and speculations about a possible military shock in that region, I actually believe that an outright confrontation between the West and Russia in the Mediterranean is very impossible. What Russia is doing there is, in reality, an effort to maintain the current stability and political structure of Syria. When the Russian president visited Tel Aviv lately, he aimed to convoy the message that Israel is part of the Russian puzzle. This is why Putin also visited Ramallah. Therefore, Russia’s approach to the Middle East is not necessarily focused on crisis centers. Russia’s rising influence in Israel is currently a cause of major concern for the West.
From this viewpoint, I think that Russia is not seeking serious confrontation with the West, but is warning the Western countries that Syria shall never come under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations. Moscow is telling the West that it will never allow Western states to impose a no-fly zone region over Syria.
Source: Iranian Diplomacy (IRD) http://www.irdiplomacy.ir/